A trip to the Canadian province of Québec is like going to France but skipping the long plane ride. Having been to Montreal and Québec City on a previous occasion, though, I’m looking for deeper immersion into the province’s culture and exquisite cuisine. Riding my BMW F 800 GS Adventure in early summer, I’m joined by sidekick Jeff Arpin on his Honda CB1100, and native Quebecers François Gariépy (our Charlevoix tourism host) on his Kawasaki Concours, and Alain Labadie astride his Honda Gold Wing.
Although I’m not a “foodie,” I could become one over the next 24 hours. We will be visiting seven different purveyors of locally-produced breads, cheeses, chicken, duck, lamb, spirits, desserts, and more. It’s fortunate that our first day is a short one, mileage wise, because we’re likely to be eating and walking more than riding. But one must not be in a hurry when traveling Charlevoix’s Flavour Trail.
Our longest stop of the morning is a tour of Le Moulin de la Rémy, which is a historic water-powered gristmill. After 10 years of restoration work, costing some million Canadian dollars, the mill is fully functional and regularly grinds grain into various grades of flour. Flour and bread can be purchased at the on-site café. Since it’s now nearing lunchtime, we order several pizzas cooked in the café’s brick oven. The aroma and flavor of each slice is intoxicating to the senses.
In the afternoon, we stop briefly at an overlook with a sweeping vista of Baie-Saint-Paul nestled serenely in a low mountain valley, which empties into the mighty St. Lawrence River. The surrounding terrain, bathed in forest green, rises majestically from the water’s edge.
An 18 percent grade directs us down (yeehaw!) to our ferry connection, which transports us on a 15-minute ride across the St. Lawrence to L’Isle-aux-Coudres (Coudres Island). The island’s name dates back to 1535 when Jacques Cartier named it after the hazelnut-bearing trees found here. We circumnavigate the 6.8-mile-long by 1.9-mile-wide island via an outer loop of roadway with frequent vistas of the river. We are welcomed warmly at each stop on the island’s Flavour Trail with pies, ciders, and other culinary delights. If this keeps up, I’ll have to increase my bike’s suspension preload adjustment!
Do You Know the Way to Saguenay?
François does know the way, but it’s outside of his designated Charlevoix tourism domain. While he catches up on work at the office, RoadRUNNER subscriber Alain Labadie takes us into Québec’s Laurentian Mountains. (Interesting factoid: the Adirondack Mountains, across the border in New York, sometimes mistakenly included with the Appalachian Mountains, are actually an extension of the Laurentians.) Although the tallest peak is just 3,825 feet above sea level, their often bold and massive topographical features are visually arresting. We enjoy riding through the sweeping panorama of curves and elevation changes. It’s clearly time to let our steeds run in this largely unoccupied part of New France.